Thoughts on entrepreneurship in Oslo

Oslo photo credit VL


To be an entrepreneur is exciting, very challenging, and risky.

NIN's October Speaker, Jørn Haanæs, Startup Director at Oslo Business Region, shares his thoughts on and experience with the Oslo startup ecosystem.


Why do most startups fail?

In my experience, it's a wild combination of factors, but there are some common issues. Timing is often difficult - how can you tell if you are too soon or too late to the game? Many of the big dot-coms busts look like sane ideas to me now, they just missed the timing mark by a lot. Lack of focus is a classic mistake, but something that often must be experienced to truly understand what it means. Everyone says focus is important and you will know when you have followed one too many ''promising lead'' onto a stray path. Real problem solving, often in combination with the right team members. Are you solving deep issues that someone will pay to get fixed? Is your team in a great position to do just that?


Is it more challenging for foreigners to start their own companies in Norway, compared to locals? Please elaborate.

Yes and no (sorry for the lame answer). Locals have the upper hand in many different categories, they don't need to spend as much time figuring out basics. That can lead to taking things for granted as well. Foreigners can bring something different to the mix and they need to work harder to prove that they're doing something right. They can't just lean back on society, friends, and family and expect that things will work out in one way or another.  That's a necessary mentality in building a startup. It takes tenacity, grit, and focus, all of which are abilities that perhaps took you abroad in the first place.


How do you think the startup ecosystem in Oslo will develop in the next few years?

I am convinced we are looking at the beginning of a big trend. The numbers confirm that we have seen a great growth for the last three years and we expect it to continue. New co-working spaces and startup programs appear monthly, showing no signs of slowing down. We will hopefully see more VC activity in the coming years. Access to seed capital is pretty good, but VC in the range of 5-100 MNOK is hard to come by. That should change when more qualified growth startups mature into good business cases. 


Are there any specific industries which are prevalent among startups in Oslo? If yes, which ones?

I would say that we see a lot of B2B software, not so much hardware, medtech+edtech+fintech is particularly strong. However, we see startups from every industry and sector. New technologies enable startups to do things that used to be considered impossible - for instance, why do hardware in a high-cost country? Times are changing, cost of prototyping is going down and access to both capital and talent is orders of magnitude improved, compared to 3-5 years ago.


In your opinion, what is the best way to convince investors to fund a new company?

Investors will always look for great teams that are solving deep and real problems. As a startup, your job is to present why this specific problem you are working on is worth solving, why your solution brings a dramatically improved solution to the market, and why your team is uniquely qualified to do just that. It's hard, but those are questions you need to answer in order to justify spending your own time on it as well.




Vyara Løvig, Marketing Coordinator


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